Tacos Al Pastor are thinly sliced pieces of pork that are marinated in a chile pineapple marinade. While traditionally cooked on a spit, making an authentic al pastor at home is easier than you think. These tender pork tacos are perfect for Taco Tuesday or Cinco De Mayo.
Serve the pastor tacos in homemade corn or flour tortillas. Also, try topping the pork tacos with an easy pineapple salsa to bring out the pineapple flavor in the marinade. For a larger meal, serve with Mexican rice or Slow Cooker Mexican beans.
What are Tacos Al Pastor?
Tacos Al Pastor are tacos made with marinated pork that is thinly sliced. They’re typically served with pineapple, onion, and cilantro. Traditional Al Pastor is made by grilling pork on a vertical spit (similar to shawarma).
This recipe cooks the pork in a skillet instead of on a spit, but you still get the authentic Al Pastor flavor from the pineapple and chile-based marinade.
What does Al Pastor mean?
In English, Al Pastor means “Shepherd Style.” It originates from Lebanese immigrants that moved to Mexico in the early 1900s and brought their method of roasting on a vertical spit. Mexicans then used this technique for marinated pork.
What is the difference between Al Pastor and Carnitas?
Both Al Pastor and Carnitas use pork but while Al Pastor uses pineapple to contrast the spicy chiles, Carnitas do not and have a stronger pork flavor. Carnitas are made by slow cooking or braising the pork and then browned to finish. Al Pastor is not slow cooked, but browned to cook instead.
What cut of meat is used for Al Pastor?
Al Pastor is typically made from a boneless pork shoulder. Pork shoulder is an inexpensive cut that is fattier so when cooked it becomes very tender and juicy. You can substitute a pork loin, but it’s a leaner cut of pork so it will be dryer and not as tender and moist in the pastor tacos.
How To Make Al Pastor Tacos
Make the marinade. The marinade is made with boiled and softened guajillo and pasilla chiles, onion, and garlic cloves. Blend them together until smooth with orange juice, pineapple juice, and spices until smooth.
Slice the pork roast. The whole pork roast is thinly sliced, then tossed with the marinade. The thin slices ensure that every bite will be packed with flavor.
Marinate. Add the pork and pineapple marinade into a bowl or resealable bag – give it a toss around and make sure all the pork pieces are covered. Marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight. The longer you can marinate, the more tender and flavorful the meat will be.
Cook. Start by toasting some pineapple slices in a skillet. These will be a smoky, sweet topping for your tacos. Then fry the pork in some oil for a few minutes per side until it’s all cooked. Take care not to overcook – it doesn’t take long.
Serve. For a zesty topping, toss chopped cilantro with onion and lime juice. To serve, just thinly slice the pork, serve in tortillas, and top with the grilled pineapple and cilantro-onion mix.
Are Tacos Al Pastor spicy?
Tacos Al Pastor are not very spicy. Although there are chiles in the marinade, the sweet pineapple juice balances out the spiciness.
You can also control the heat of the pork tacos by adding more chiles or adding some spicy toppings – such as sliced jalapenos or a spicy salsa.
Storage and Freezing
Storage: Leftover cooked pork can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. For best results, I recommend reheating in a skillet to crisp up the edges again.
Freezing: Leftover cooked pork can be frozen in a freezer bag (excess air removed) for up to 3 months. Or the raw pork shoulder can be combined with the marinade and then frozen in a freezer bag – thaw in the fridge overnight and cook according to instructions.
Recipe Notes and Tips
- For easier slicing, chill the raw pork shoulder (in the freezer for 30 minutes) and use a very sharp knife to slice.
The longer the marinating time the better. I recommend marinating the pork for at least 6 hours, but overnight is best.
- When cooking the pork, don’t overcrowd the skillet or the Al Pastor will steam vs browning. Use a large skillet and cook in batches.
- If you want grill marks on your pork and pineapple, you can use a grill pan instead of a skillet.
More Mexican Inspired Favorites
- Ground Beef Enchiladas
- Slow Cooker Chile Verde and Mashed Potatoes
- How to Make Tamales
- How to Make Homemade Taquitos
Authentic Tacos Al Pastor
- 3 dried Guajillo chiles with the membranes and seeds removed
- 1 dried pasilla chile with the membranes and seeds removed
- ½ large white onion chopped
- 3 large cloves of garlic peeled
- 1 orange juiced
- ½ cup pineapple juice
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 ½ ounces ground annatto (achiote molido)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 pounds pork shoulder sliced into ¼ inch thick slices
- 5-6 pineapple slices canned or fresh, drained from the juice
- Corn or flour tortillas warmed up
- Optional topping: chopped cilantro, finely diced onion and lime juice
- Boil 3 cups of water in a medium size pot. Remove from the heat and add the Guajillo and pasilla chiles, onion and garlic and let it sit for 10-15 minutes, or until the chiles become soft.
- Drain the water, and add the chiles, onion and garlic to a blender along with the orange juice, pineapple juice, salt, annatto, oregano, cinnamon, cumin, pepper and cloves. Blend until smooth.
- Place the pork and chile mixture into a large bowl or resealable bag and make sure that each piece is well coated. Refrigerate for at least 6-8 hours or overnight.
- Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pineapple and let it toast for 3-4 minutes on each side or until you start to see some light color. Remove it from the pan, slice it into bite size pieces and set it aside for later.
- Add some more oil to the pan then add 4-5 pieces of the marinated meat to the pan and let it cook for 3-4 minutes per side or until it’s cooked through. Repeat until all of the pork is cooked.
- Add the pork to a large Ziploc bag or a bowl covered with cling wrap then refrigerate it for 6-8 hours, or overnight.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and cover the bottom with olive oil or your favorite cooking oil then add the pineapple and let it toast for 3-4 minutes on each side or until you start to see some light color.
- Slice the pork into thin slices and serve it in the tortillas, topped with pineapple, cilantro and lime juice.
- Optional taco topping: Chop a handful of cilantro and about ½ cup of onions and combine in a small bowl. Squeeze juice from a lime over the top and stir to combine.